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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 3, Issue 17

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October, 2014

Inside North Korea Finding the Real Story Dean Karalekas

Japan’s SDF Unchained Edward Hsieh

China Models A2/AD Michal Thim

Contrasting Mass Incidents and Umbrella Movement Moisés Lopes de Souza

Hacking Taiwan Tobias Burgers

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646


STRATEGIC VISION

Volume 3, Issue 17

for Taiwan Security w

October, 2014

Contents Restrictions loosened on Japanese military....................................4

Edward Hsieh

Chinese hackers practice tradecraft on Taiwan............................. 9

Tobias Burgers

China teaches lessons in asymmetry to potential rivals............... 14

Michal Thim

Occupy Central has little in common with mass incidents......... 20

MoisĂŠs Lopes de Souza

Media coverage of North Korea misses the story.........................26

Dean Karalekas

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at dkarale.kas@gmail.com before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor.


Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu James Yuan Laurence Lin Aaron Jensen STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 3, Number 17, October, 2014, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: dkarale.kas@gmail.com. Or by telephone at: +866 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.mcsstw.org. © Copyright 2014 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor

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ctober has been a busy month, with several issues coming to the fore in the Asia-Pacific region. We at Strategic Vision are pleased to bring you our most recent issue, with coverage and analysis of those issues. We start with Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hsieh, who is an instructor at the TOC National Defense University and a researcher at the British think tank RUSI. He examines the recent loosening of restriction on the Japanese military, and argues that this is a significant alteration to the game board, offering a number of opportunities for Taiwan. Tobias Burgers, who conducts conflict-simulation research for CRISP Berlin, looks at the issue of cyber-security, and the trend for Chinese hackers to test new intrusion techniques on Taiwan’s digital infrastructure, thus honing their methods before testing their attacks on other countries such as the United States. Michal Thim of the Taiwan Studies Program at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute offers his analysis of one of the unexpected effects of China’s A2/AD strategy against the United States; namely, that the other countries in the region, including Taiwan, are learning from this lesson and preparing asymmetrical assets of their own to counter the growing People’s Liberation Army. Moisés Lopes de Souza of Brazil’s Center of Research in International Relations looks at the growing number of mass incidents happening throughout China, and offers a comparison between these and the Ocuupy Central movement of Hong Kong in recent weeks. Finally, Strategic Vision’s Executive Editor Dean Karalekas looks at all the attention that North Korea has received in the Western media this month, but how the big media outlets are missing the important stories in their rush to cover the more sensationalistic ones. We hope you enjoy this issue of Strategic Vision, and offer you our best regards. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision


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photo: Dominique Pineiro The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter destroyer, JS Kurama (DDH 144), leads a convoy of ships during a fleet review rehearsal.

Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 17 (October, 2014)

Outside the Box

Japan loosens restrictions on its military, presenting opportunities for Taiwan Edward Hsieh

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n the 1960s, the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security split the responsibility for Japan’s defense between the two countries. Since that time, Japan has continued to adhere to the stipulations of its pacifist constitution, and it has maintained an essentially defensive posture. In 2012, Tokyo’s role in regional security took on much greater importance in light of Beijing’s growing in-

lective self-defense—essentially, to come to the aid of allies like Australia and the United States should they be attacked. This move was a controversial one, but it did open the door for Japan to take on a new role in regional security affairs. On April 25, 2014, US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet at the White House and released a joint

fluence in the region and Washington’s pivot to Asia. This provided the government of Japan with the motivation to approve a reinterpretation of the constitution to allow Japan’s armed forces to engage in col-

statement on cooperation in shaping the future of the Asia-Pacific region. Included in this statement was confirmation that the 1960 treaty extends to the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hsieh is an instructor at the TOC National Defense University currently conducting research at RUSI, a British think tank. He can be reached for comment at edwardsh@ms12.url.com.tw.


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Following this meeting, Japan's cabinet approved the reinterpretation of the country's postwar constitution. These adjustments to the constitution will permit Japan to possess a true military, not just a self-defense force, and will enable Japan to better defend allies and other nations with which it has close relations. Both developments are meaningful elements of the right to collective self-defense and Japan’s transition to normal statehood. Things were taken a step further when Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon in July 2014. Both sides agreed to include collective self-defense in the Guidelines for Japan-United States Defense Cooperation before the end of the year. This important modification will allow Japan to participate in such activities as ballistic missile defense, counter proliferation, counter piracy, peacekeeping, and a wide range of military exercises. In addition to fostering closer relations with the United States, this will allow Japan to take a greater military initiative. These developments are a direct result of China’s ris-

ing power and its demonstrated ambition. However, these changes also hint that Japanese leaders may harbor concerns over whether the United States will keep its word and protect Japan in the event of a conflagration with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). With the loosening of the ban, Japan can strengthen

“The Republic of China maintains close relations with both Japan and the United States, and its security directly impacts Japanese security.” its conventional armed forces to meet the country’s security and defense demands, as well as to become a major power that can share more responsibility in support of America’s rebalancing strategy. These changes were strongly desired by both Washington and Tokyo. For Japan, the right to collective self-defense enables it to involve itself in a conflict anytime, anyplace should one of its allies come under attack—even if Japan has not been attacked directly. Additionally,

photo: World Imaging The Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation signed January 19,1960, photographed at Japan Foreign Ministry Archives.


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photo: Aaron Hostutler US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, and Japan’s Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera hold a joint press conference in the Pentagon April 29, 2013.

Japan is expanding its role in maintaining security around its borders under the Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan (SIASJ) provision of the Guidelines. Given that Taiwan lies in close proximity to Japan, these two developments raise the question of how Japan’s view of Taiwan is evolving. The Republic of China (ROC) maintains close relations with both Japan and the United States, and its security directly impacts Japanese security. Although Taiwan is not a member of the US-Japan alliance, it does maintain close ties to both nations. In this sense, Japan’s expanded security role in East Asia may contribute to deterrence against PRC aggression toward the island. In addition to the aforementioned constitutional revisions and its upgrade of the US alliance, Japan has recently enacted a series of important changes in military policy that could have important implications for the ROC. A revision that loosens restrictions on transferring defense equipment and defense-related technology raises the possibility that Japan could potentially export military hardware to Taiwan. One

area where Japan could greatly aid Taiwan’s defense needs is in the development or procurement of submarines. For over a decade, the ROC government has unsuccessfully sought to acquire diesel-powered attack submarines. Although the United States had pledged to help Taiwan in this regard, these efforts have seen no progress. Given that it does not produce diesel submarines, it is unlikely that the United States can help Taiwan.

Technology transfers Recently, Japan has begun to consider transferring technology from its Soryu-class submarines to Australia. If Japan agrees to provide this technology to Australia, it could open the door for technology transfers to other countries as well, including Taiwan. The biggest obstacle for such a technology transfer would be political repercussions from Beijing. However, if Japan can stomach Beijing’s political wrath and provide Taipei with submarine technology, it could be enough to enable Taiwan to produce


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its own submarines domestically. Another revision widens the interpretation of the three conditions Japan places on its response to an attack; specifically the first condition, that there exists an imminent and illegitimate act of aggression against Japan, was amended to include any such aggression toward its allies and defense partners. This opens the question as to whether Japan would become involved in a cross-strait conflict. In the past, Japan would only use force if it was under direct attack, or to prevent an imminent attack. Additionally, Japanese forces were to use the minimum amount of military force necessary to provide for the country’s defense. Under the new rules, Japan can use force under a wider variety of circumstances, and the concept of “minimal defensive force” has been expanded. Japan’s expansion of its right to collective self-defense begs the question of whether Tokyo will push for a multilateral security alliance in Asia. Some observers have suggested that a defense organiza-

tion akin to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could emerge in East Asia as a response to China’s worrying military buildup. If this were to occur, it would have profound implications for Taiwan’s defense.

“While Japan’s defense reforms do create opportunities for Taiwan, they also contribute to more complex regional dynamics.” Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that Japan would push for, or support, a NATO-style alliance system in Asia. While it is true that Japan is upgrading its defense relations with key Asian allies, this does not mean that Japan is willing to fight for another nation. Additionally, unresolved security issues, as well as historical animosity between Japan and Korea, also stand in the way of any such security alliance. With these realities in mind, the ROC must con-

photo: US DoD US Marines and Japanese Self-Defense Force soldiers go over tactics while conducting amphibious assault operations as part of exercise Dawn Blitz 2013.


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winning author Jon Meacham, the contemporary international order is characterized by rising nationalism and distrust. In his view, current international tensions resemble the situation prior to World War I. Meacham’s description is especially applicable to East Asia, where China’s increasingly assertive maritime activity, as well as its heated rhetoric, has pushed countries like Vietnam and The Philippines into strengthening relations with the United States and Japan. In turn, China’s state-run media regularly lambastes the United States and Japan for stirring up tensions in the region. None of this bodes well for Taiwan. In the event of hostilities between China and the US-Japan alliance, Taiwan could be forced to choose a side, and become embroiled in a conflict between the two sides. map: Orange Wave In 2012, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative as tinue to work within the framework of its quasi-ally a basis for peace in the region. It was Ma’s intention status to maximize the benefits that it can obtain to put Taiwan in the role of peacemaker. However, from the US-Japan security alliance. While some the already heated dispute between China and Japan Taiwanese have high expectations for the benefits that over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands began boiling over, Abe’s policies could bring, it is better to temper such and the region was once again thrust into turmoil. expectations and take a realistic view of the situation. While laudable, Ma’s effort will not significantly enThe ROC government must understand that US suphance regional security. port for Japanese defense reforms is fundamentally As divisions between the PRC and the US-Japan geared toward strengthening Japan’s armed forces to alliance continue to deepen, Taiwan may well be prehelp counter China’s growing power. While Taiwan sented with a new variety of opportunities and chalis still important to the United States, it is just one lenges. Japan’s emerging role in Asian security issues concern of many. could serve as further deterrence against any possible

Complex regional dynamics While Japan’s defense reforms do create opportunities for Taiwan, they also contribute to more complex regional dynamics, which could make things more complicated for Taipei. According to Pulitzer Prize

PRC aggression toward Taiwan, although if Taipei is seen to be aligning itself more closely with the USJapan alliance, this might upset Beijing and precipitate a harder line against the island. As the region’s military powers jostle for position, leaders in Taipei must be prepared to make difficult decisions about the future of the nation. n


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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 17 (October, 2014)

Cyber Target Practice China’s hackers use Taiwan’s digital infrastructure as cyber-war training ground Tobias Burgers

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he US Department of Homeland Security has declared October National CyberSecurity Awareness Month. While the event is currently observed only in America, it is something that Taiwan may want to adopt. For years now, Chinese cyber-war units have been engaging with Taiwan units almost every day, with some severe attacks every few months. This is an assertion of Simon Chang, Taiwan’s science and technology minister, who was quoted recently in a report in The Diplomat. The Republic of China (ROC) has long been on the receiving end of these Chinese cyber-attacks: A relatively similar culture, a high degree of digital infra-

structure, and a shared language have made Taiwan a favorite target for cyber-warfare operations from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for over a decade. Most such attacks consist of simple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and other, similar attacks that seek to hack into and disrupt the websites of government and affiliated institutions. However, in the past two or three years, increasingly larger, more highly sophisticated and long-term cyber-operations have been conducted against the ROC, constituting an advanced persistent threat (APT). Rather than disrupting website availability or leaving a political message, these APT attacks seek to gain root access and control

graphic: Naoko Shimoji A US Air Force graphic promoting National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The US government has come to regard cyber-attacks as a serious threat.

Tobias Burgers is doctoral candidate at the Otto-Suhr-Institute of the Free University Berlin, and a researcher for CRISP Berlin on conflict simulation. The author wishes to thank Michael Zunenshine for his insightful comments and first review. He can be reached for comment at burgers@zedat.fu-berlin.de.


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over the critical networks of the ROC government, as well as Taiwan’s financial and educational institutions. The aim is not just to acquire strategic information, but also to be able to seize control of Taiwan's critical digital infrastructure in case of conflict.

Experimental target These more recent attacks stand out in that they employ completely new techniques to gain access to networks. Taiwanese cyber-security experts reckon that, in Chang’s words, Taiwan is being used “as an experimental target for new hacking techniques.” As such, Taiwan’s digital frontier can be considered the primary battleground for Chinese hackers—one in which highly developed and sophisticated yet untested attack techniques are being carried out by capable hackers in order to optimize their skills. This is clearly a major, if underreported, problem for Taiwan. In Chang’s estimation, Taiwan is simply digitally outgunned by the Chinese cyber-effort, and given China’s increasing defense budget and focus on cyberwarfare, this digital gap will surely only grow. China

might already—or in the near future—have the capability to digitally alter or even destroy essential parts of the Taiwanese digital infrastructure. Therefore, one may conclude that future (digital) defense prospects for Taiwan look bleak. However, despite this present disadvantage, it does not necessarily follow that things will inevitably get worse for Taiwan. The scenario as described provides the ROC government and military with a unique opportunity, where they can seek to take advantage of the fact that the country is China's digital testing ground. As with all weapons development, the big guns are tested on a smaller scale before being used against more imposing targets. As the primary target for Chinese cyber-skills, Taiwan will thus acquire highly valuable information on new techniques, approaches, and methods of entry by Chinese hackers. The forensic evidence gathered will be highly sought after by American, South Korean, Japanese, and European cyber-security agencies. Taipei must therefore use this information, and seek to share it with its allies in order to enhance its relations and security cooperation with them.

photo: Jay Baker Experts from industry, government and academia attend the signing ceremony for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Annapolis, Maryland.


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photo: Paul Santikko Minnesota National Guard airmen keep an eye on cyber security and response at the Minnesota National Guard headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Most importantly, this intelligence should be shared with the United States. For one thing, since Washington initiated its rebalance toward Asia, the current administration in Taipei has attempted to shift away from the United States rather than using the opportunity to increase its bargaining power with Beijing. This can be logically attributed to China's increasing political clout. However, given the importance that the United States places on cyber-security, it seems likely that Washington would be willing to ignore any protests from Beijing.

Inconspicuous cooperation Furthermore, any such cyber-security cooperation would be less visible than, for example, joint operations between the ROC and US navies. A nondescriptive joint cyber-security center would be far more inconspicuous than a US aircraft carrier in Taiwan’s waters. Additionally, the administration of US President Barack Obama re-affirmed early this year its commitment to enhancing cyber-security. According to the American Enterprise Institute’s director of Asian studies, Dan Blumenthal, “a center

for cyber-defense … would bring together the best minds from allied countries to develop countermeasures and conduct offensive activities.” This would be the perfect opportunity for Taiwan to enhance its cooperation even further with the United States.

“Like Japan, South Korea can be expected to be interested in the forensics of new techniques of Chinese hackers.” While Blumenthal suggests that such a center should be established in Taiwan, a much more effective location for such a facility would be Japan, or alternatively, South Korea. For one thing, it would be less public, and hence engender less of a backlash from Beijing. For another, it would allow the government in Taipei to enhance its security relations not just with Washington, but also with Seoul and Tokyo. Though not as victimized as Taiwan, Japan too suffers from a high rate of Chinese cyber-attacks. Given the Japanese government’s recent increase in defense and security efforts, it would make Japan the No. 1 regional partner for Taiwan. In addition, Japan already


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graphic: FBI

hosts the Asian Joint Cyber Security Center. Taiwan should therefore pursue a dual strategy in which it seeks to include itself in this existing Japanese framework, and a newly formed US-Japanese-TaiwaneseSouth Korea cyber security center.

A common cyber-enemy Much like Japan, South Korea has been suffering extensive cyber-attacks in recent years. Although a fair share of these attacks come from North Korea, those from China account for a substantial part as well. Like Japan, South Korea can be expected to be interested in the forensics of new techniques of Chinese hackers: China, along with Russia, provides the expertise teaching North Korean hackers how to conduct cyber-attacks, according to media reports citing two defectors—one a former North Korean hacker, the other a hacking teacher. Taiwan should also foster closer cyber-security cooperation with the European Union. Brussels celebrated the first anniversary of its EU Cyber Security Strategy (EUCSS) early this year, and is in the process of setting up its own cyber-force. In this re-

gard, the EU would benefit greatly from the latest information about Chinese hacking techniques gleaned by Taiwanese counter-infiltration experts. Furthermore, the practical skills and knowledge of the Taiwanese cyber-force would be highly sought after by the European Union, thereby giving Europe a greater incentive to boost security cooperation with Taiwan.

“Taiwan could easily leverage the cybersecurity issue to foster broader security relations, helping to make up for the country’s failure to break out of its international isolation imposed by China.” In recent years, Brussels has sought to increase its influence in security affairs in the region. It remains highly unlikely that Europe will soon become a force of influence in maritime security in Asia. Cyber security, however, is a boundless threat, faced equally by East-Asian and European nations. Therefore, joint cyber-security efforts might actually be a good chance for the European Union to get its foot in the door in the Asia-Pacific region.


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It is clear that the nations listed above would have a profound interest in information-sharing from Taiwan. However, the question logically arises of what would be the benefit for Taiwan in this regard. First of all, increased cyber-security cooperation with other nations would surely improve the capabilities of its own cyber-force, especially if it seeks to share this information through joint cyber-security centers. Moreover, these centers would give Taiwan the opportunity to receive information in return, and would provide the ROC with a framework and capability to engage in joint cyber-defense exercises.

Enhancing quality Clearly such an initiative would benefit the state of Taiwanese cyber defense. If, as Chang avers, Taiwan is lagging behind in the quantity of its cyber-force, then Taipei should focus on enhancing its quality. Instead of putting more manpower on Taiwan’s digital frontier, Taipei should make sure that those al-

ready defending it are as capable as possible. Taiwan could easily leverage the cyber-security issue to foster broader security relations, helping to make up for the country’s failure to break out of its international isolation imposed by China. As previously noted, Japan is increasing its security cooperation in East Asia, and given the close relationship between the people of Japan and Taiwan, cyber-security cooperation might serve as a good starting point. South Korea is expanding its security cooperation as well, although to a lesser extent, and Taiwan should capitalize on this. Except for China, which views the US pivot as a threat, most countries in the region have largely welcomed it, and stand to benefit by leveraging the US rebalance to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis Beijing. Taipei has failed to do likewise, despite being the main target for ongoing Chinese attacks against its government, industry, and military web-based assets. Cyber-security could serve here as a starting point to increase Taiwan’s profile on the international stage. n

image: Flowtography Most people in Western countries, as well as those in Asia, spend several hours each day in front of a computer, making cyber-security a common concern.


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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 17 (October, 2014)

Turnabout Fair Play China’s A2/AD strategy against US holds lessons for nations wary of PLA Michal Thim

photo: Aaron Allmon An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, launches heat decoys in a close-air-support mission.

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t would seem that asymmetry is the new black, at least among defense analysts dealing with the Asia-Pacific. Asymmetrical warfare is an age-old concept; however, recently it has been mostly associated with insurgent groups or guerrillas capitalizing on their familiarity with irregular terrain in hit-andrun operations against regular government forces. As

against well-equipped government forces in their efforts to pursue a particular political agenda. In the Asia-Pacific region, however, asymmetry is associated less with insurgency and more with the military disparities between nations. It is often expressed as the concept of Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD), which of course is primarily referenced in

employed by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Irish Republican Army, asymmetrical strategies and tactics were ideally suited to small groups standing

relation to preparations by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to prevent access—and consequently deny unhindered operation—to the US Navy and

Michal Thim is a doctoral candidate in the Taiwan Studies Program at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, a contributing analyst for Wikistrat, and a research fellow at the Prague-based think-tank Association for International Affairs. Michal tweets @michalthim.


Asymmetrical Warfare  b  15

America’s other forward-deployed forces stationed in Japan. Decades of Chinese military modernization has given the PRC the capability of projecting force a greater distance from its shores, with an eye toward eventually deploying a blue-water navy. Despite this, A2/AD remains at the forefront of China’s effort to establish itself as a potent military power. China’s current preoccupation with A2/AD can be traced back to two pivotal moments in the 1990s. The liberation of Kuwait witnessed a US-led coalition crush Iraqi forces in a spectacular fashion. In 1990,the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was still a large, technologically deficient standing army like that of Iraq, and alarmed Chinese leaders took notice and embarked on a comprehensive modernization program. The other event was the deployment of US aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait during the 1995-1996 missile crisis. While the danger of direct confrontation was relatively low, the PLA could do little more than sit and watch as the US Navy carrier battle groups operated in and around what Beijing considers its own waters. Fast-forward two decades, and what we are witnessing now is a fairly straightforward admission by the United States that, in the words of James Kraska of the

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, sending carrier battle group into close proximity of the Chinese coast is tantamount to a suicide mission. A2/AD can be understood as both a broader strategy and as a set of tactical capabilities deployed in order to exploit the weaknesses of a stronger adversary. Several pivotal platforms undergird Chinese A2/ AD. Perhaps the one most discussed is an arsenal of

“If fighting asymmetrically means trying to exploit the enemy’s weakness, then fighting asymmetrically is little more than fighting smart.” short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (DF-11 and DF-15 types) and a wide spectrum of land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles. This category also includes the already famous but unproven anti-ship ballistic missiles DF-21D, better known as the “carrier killer.” Also vital is the attack submarine force of the PLA Navy (PLAN), including the most recent delivery of Russian-made Kilo-class subs. A third platform worth mentioning is the fast and stealthy Type 088 Houbei-class missile boat, each wielding

photo: Staci Miller An A C-17 takes part in an exercise practicing forcible entry into a hostile area and securing sufficient freedom of movement while facing A2/AD tactics.


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8 C-801/802/803 anti-ship missiles. Naturally, all of these platforms would be supported by an increasingly powerful air force and surface navy. The broader question concerning A2/AD is whether an inherently asymmetrical platform even exists. From the ones just mentioned, it is possible to conceive of their use against an inferior adversary. Before considering a regional response to China’s A2/AD, it is worthwhile to look at few possible definitions of asymmetry.

Defining asymmetry Perhaps the most obvious (and the least sophisticated) is a crude count of the number of tanks, fighter jets, soldiers, etc. While this alone is not a very useful approach, it is an inevitable departure point for further debate. Somewhat more useful is the inclusion of other elements of national power, such as population size and economic strength. Asymmetry in this case takes into account a broader set of factors that makes one side weaker than the other, and therefore more prone to heed the call to deploy asymmetrical

platforms to compensate for its inherent weakness. Another way to look at asymmetry is from the point of capabilities deployment and its use. An encounter on the battlefield can still be symmetrical when both sides employ the same capabilities, no matter which has more tanks, ships, or missiles at its disposal. In other words, deploying a carrier battle group against an opponent’s carrier battle group is a symmetrical response—sending submarines and stealthy missile boats instead is an asymmetrical one. Asymmetry at the strategic and tactical level matters, too. If both sides use a similar approach, then the stronger side is in a favorable position. If the weaker side’s counter-strategy is dissimilar, then according to Ivan Arreguin-Toft, author of How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict, it has stronger chance to prevail in the end. Finally, asymmetry may not be a very useful category of warfighting at all. History has rarely witnessed conflict between two perfectly symmetrical opponents, and if fighting asymmetrically means trying to exploit the enemy’s weakness, then fighting asymmetrically is little more than fighting smart.

photo: Allocer The Kh-35 is often referred to as the “Harpoonski” by Russian sailors because it looks like and functions like the American Harpoon anti-ship missile.


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photo: Zachary Harrell The littoral combat ship USS Independence, seen here during a port visit to Key West, was specifically designed to defeat A2/AD threats.

Virtually every war-fighting strategy is asymmetrical in that sense. It is clear that Chinese A2/AD conforms to several of the definitions outlined above, and that it poses a challenge to US power in a way that has prompted Washington to redefine operational concepts, sparking a lively debate—between proponents of Offshore Balancing and those of the AirSea Battle concept—on which is the most appropriate response to ensure the continuing superiority of the United States in areas of strategic importance. Still, turnabout is fair play, and China’s aggressive prosecution of its maritime territorial disputes along the entirety of its coastline (including the claim over Taiwan) has resulted in other countries in the region seeking ways to confront this militarily superior foe with an eye on their territories. The rise of Chinese military power poses a qualitatively different challenge for China’s neighbors than it does for the United States. Vietnam, The Philippines, and Taiwan do not have the resources to match PLA capabilities in terms of quantity and quality, although in Taiwan’s case this was not the case until after the mid-1990s.

Japan is in a somewhat different position in terms of its potential for military and economic strength: its air force and navy handily outmatch those of China, according to defense analysts such as Larry Wortzel, but they are constrained by Japan’s pacifist constitution, notwithstanding recent incremental loosening of restrictions. Moreover, being backed up by the US-Japan mutual defense treaty puts Japan on the receiving end of Chinese A2/AD along with the

“Hanoi seeks to offset the increasing presence of a modernized PLA Navy and Chinese coast guard on its doorstep.” United States. In any case, China’s fielding of A2/ AD systems has not gone unnoticed in the capitals across the region. These countries have grown increasingly uneasy about China’s military buildup. Moreover, these concerns have not been alleviated by Washington’s less-than-robust response to the Chinese A2/AD challenge: If the most potent military power in the world is concerned about the limita-


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photo: Michael Zimmerman US Army paratroopers take part in Joint Operational Access Exercise 13-10, which simulates an enemy’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.

tions imposed on its ability to project power, how can countries in a much weaker position, and involved in territorial disputes with Beijing, react to the PLA threat? The answer seems to be to adopt denial strategies of their own. Vietnam is a prime example. Investing in a fleet of Kilo-class submarines and fast boats equipped with Kh-35 anti-ship missiles, Hanoi seeks to offset the increasing presence of a modernized PLA Navy and Chinese coast guard on its doorstep. Part of the American debate on how to react to Chinese A2/AD has been to find ways to adopt elements of anti-access and sea-denial, and turn them to China’s disadvantage. A 2013 RAND report, called Employing LandBased Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific, suggested that following the advice of its descriptive title would allow the United States and its allies to curtail the PLAN’s operations beyond the immediate coastal areas.

the Asian littorals.” It is hard to miss the irony of the United States adopting a counter-strategy based on China’s attempt to deny US forces access. Taiwan, for its part, is a prime example of a regional actor attempting to turn A2/AD against China. After all, China’s A2/AD buildup was not designed to contend with US intervention in a Chinese attack on Japan. And despite the Chinese rhetoric about US encirclement, even the most ardent PLA hawk would be hard-pressed to argue convincingly that Beijing is fielding A2/AD in fear of a US-led amphibious invasion of China. Rather, Beijing’s primary concern is to prevent US forces from coming to assist Taiwan should Beijing decide to use force to annex the island, as it has repeatedly threatened to do. How, then, should Taipei respond?

US Rep. J. Randy Forbes, (R-Va.), who is chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, recently argued in a piece for The National Interest that there are “great advantages for the joint force and our partnerships in the region if the Army were to stand-up a landbased sea-control force that could be deployed along

Taiwan’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review argues in favour of an innovative asymmetrical response to China’s military strength. In the future, the Republic of China’s (ROC) anti-access and sea-denial force would be based on land and sea-borne (Hsun Hai stealthy corvettes) anti-ship (Hsiung Feng III) and land attack (Hsiung Feng IIE) missiles, domestically

Innovative response


Asymmetrical Warfare  b  19

built submarines, and a hardened critical infrastructure so the country would be able to withstand an initial attack. Under these conditions, a surface navy based on large vessels would no longer play the same role in Taiwan’s defense as the one for which it was initially designed. Granted, Taiwan’s turn to asymmetrical countermeasures is partially forced by its curtailed ability to procure advanced weapons systems. Yet, it is also a necessary step forward as the PLA is becoming more powerful. In addition to hardware, there are a host of other problems, too, facing the ROC military: Low morale, insufficient draft rates, and no clear sense of purpose, all of which hinder the transition to an all-volunteer force. Clearly the Ministry of National Defense and relevant agencies need to step up their efforts at recruiting and polishing the image of the armed services among Taiwan’s population. Having the human resources needed to secure the country’s defense is as important as securing financial resources for the same purpose. With just the right decisions by Taipei, it could be made prohibitively difficult for China to conquer Taiwan, barring a long campaign of attrition.

Neither Taiwan nor Vietnam (nor The Philippines, for that matter) can match Chinese power on their own; even the United States is no longer in an advantageous position. What plays into Beijing’s hands is that, unlike America’s security responsibilities around the globe, China only needs to achieve local (regional) superiority. This remains a possibility despite Washington’s overall upper hand in terms of quality and quantity of military firepower. For Taiwan and other nations interested in safeguarding their own sovereignty, the goal is not the destruction of the PLA: rather, it is simply to prevent a Chinese victory. The remarkable transition of the PLA into a modern force possessing cutting-edge weapons systems operating under an A2/AD umbrella has created the paradoxical situation wherein Beijing’s rivals look at its A2/AD as a source of inspiration for their own defense plans. Thus, China may soon fall victim to its own success, both in terms of military modernization and imposition of the A2/AD reality on the United States and its allies. The resulting situation may be a conventional version of the old Cold War nuclear paradox of mutually assured destruction—a situation where regional balance is predicated on the mutual denial of the use of force. n

photo: congnghequocphong The first Hsun Hai missile corvette vessel, the Tuo River, dubbed the ‘Carrier Killer’ by the local media, at the Naval Shipbuilding Center in Kaohsiung.


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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 17 (October, 2014)

Critical Mass

Occupy Central has little in common with mass incidents throughout China Moisés Lopes de Souza

photo: 78cvubv820 Protesters in Sansui county in China’s Guizhou province take to the streets to denounce an illegal land grab perpetrated by the local government.

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he government of China’s Guizhou province deployed thousands of police officers to quell a protest in Sansui county October 13, 2014, killing two and injuring hundreds, it was reported by the Chinese-language citizen journalism site Boxun. Armored vehicles and helicopters were used to break up the demonstration by an estimated 10,000 citizens expressing their anger over the county government's expropriation of 53 square kilometers

has invited comparison with the massive student-led demonstrations held on the streets of Hong Kong in recent weeks, especially in terms of how closely (or not) they are reported in the foreign press, and the levels of brutality of government measures to disperse the protesters. While some analysts have drawn parallels between the mass incidents in China and the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, assuming an equivalency can be misleading, owing to a number

of land under false pretenses. The incident—just one of the thousands of so-called mass incidents that take place in China every year—

of social, cultural, and political factors. The Hong Kong protests have been closely followed by specialists in international relations and related

Moisés Lopes de Souza is a doctoral candidate in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University and a member of the Group of Studies in Asia at Brazil’s Center of Research in International Relations. He can be reached for comment at moises.lp.souza@gmail.com.


Mass Incidents  b  21

graphic: Opendemocracy

fields since they began on September 28, 2014. The protests were surprisingly well-organized, conducted peacefully, and as of the time of writing, have been impressively resilient against the local government’s attempts to disarticulate them. Officially, the movement that began as Occupy Central has as its primary objective civil disobedience. Thousands of protesters blocked roads and paralyzed Hong Kong’s financial district, citing but one demand: a full implementation of universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017 and the Legislative Council elections in 2020 according to “international standards.” Despite it being a studentled demonstration, the movement itself was initiated by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law

lence and social counter-reaction. This latter scenario would damage one of the most important financial centers in the world; it would damage China’s image in the international community, and could engender sanctions by Western powers. Moreover, what is at stake is the capacity of Beijing to exert its influence over one of the most important areas of its territory—an area with huge economic and political importance. It has to do with the ability of Beijing to win the hearts and minds of Hongkongers—to convince them that they are part of China, and therefore not in a position to challenge the system.

at the University of Hong Kong, in January 2013. The importance of Occupy Central will be yet determined by future events. Beijing faces a profound dilemma: between giving in to the pressures of the students and thereby creating a precedent that might be seized upon by other social groups, and cracking down on the protesters but risking an increase in vio-

However, even though the importance and symbolism of Occupy Central—and the subsequent Umbrella Movement—have been unquestionable, the students and general sympathizers of the movement are not the only ones with demands and the willingness to agitate for improvements or eventual changes to the system. Every day, thousands of Chinese citi-

Public demonstrations


22  b  STRATEGIC VISION

zens engage in a variety of public demonstrations, riots, and protests exactly like those in Sansui county, with demands ranging from better housing conditions to the removal of corrupt officials. These mass incidents are part of the everyday lives of millions of Chinese across the country, and even before the events in Hong Kong, were already considered a potentially dangerous and destabilizing phenomenon by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). According to the Annual Report on China’s Rule of Law (2014), mass incident is a term that covers virtually every kind of riot, protest, and demonstration of civil unrest. The widespread occurrence of mass incidents in China has to do with the profound economic and social changes to which that country has been subjected for decades. The economic transition from collective economy to unbridled capitalism has imposed severe shifts in quality and lifestyle for the Chinese as a whole. Hence, by embracing foreign capital, and now that local authorities are exposed to a greater flow of money, China has experienced an explosion of corruption. With little variation, much of the official corruption has to do with local officials and village leaders trampling over peasants’ rights as they engage in land expropriation without appropriate compensation. Thus, the central element of social discontent has nothing to do with advocating democracy, or calling for media and other freedoms, as in the Hong Kong protests.

Freedoms denied According to Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government has continued to deny its people the rights to freedom of association, expression, and assembly, despite these rights being guaranteed in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. Nevertheless, it is environmental rights, ethnic conflict, and forced demolitions and removals that are the main drivers behind the current spate of mass incidents.

Hand in hand with economic development there has been an increasing perception and sensitivity about social and political problems revolving around escalating corruption. Chih-jou Chen, who monitors news report on mass incidents in China, cited official malpractice, ambiguous and unjust property rights, surging health-care and educational costs, and deteriorating environmental conditions as issues in

photo: Umbrevolution A handbill for the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ is posted on a wall in Hong Kong.

the lives of Chinese today that are fueling resistance. The term “mass incidents” was coined by Chinese authorities to describe any type of social disturbance occasioned by group demonstrations which perform public displays of discontentment toward local cadres, or any other socio-political problem. According to a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the number of mass incidents jumped from 8,709 in 1993 to 32,000 in 1999, reaching an impressive 87,000 in 2005. While CASS defined 80 percent of these events as rights activism, just 5.1 percent were considered potentially influential riots. A further analysis shows that farmers and workers respectively


Mass Incidents  b  23

photo: Citobun On September 28, organizers of Occupy Central announced they would begin a civil disobedience campaign, and protesters blocked roads in Hong Kong.

make up 35 and 36 percent of participants in mass incidents, with just 15 percent staged by urbanites. The year 2010 saw more impressive growth in the number of mass incidents, to approximately 180,000, it was reported. According to the Danwei service of the Financial Times, exact numbers are hard to get for 2012, but it is believed that there were between 80,000 and 100,000 mass incidents that broke out throughout China.

Ambiguous definition These do not include smaller disturbances of social order, which are ranked by the CCP as something not quite on the level of mass incidents. Examples include peaceful small-group petitions, sit-ins, marches, rallies, labor or merchant strikes, student demonstrations, mass brawls, and even violent riots. Clearly, the definition has been ambiguous and sometimes controversial due to the power that each province has to define the term as it sees fit. According to Justine Zheng Ren, author of “‘Mass Incidents’ in China,” the fundamental reason for

the proliferation of mass incidents is “the frequent encroachment on the interests of the middle and lower classes, coupled with a lack of appropriate conflict-resolution mechanisms.” Albert Keidel of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute believes this encroachment results in low and unpaid wages, layoffs and unpaid back wages, loss of worker benefits, land denied for public use, and difficulties with access to water. In written testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Keidel explained that these issues, as

“More often than not, when members of the Chinese populace find themselves at the receiving end of government corruption, brutality, or incompetence, it is on the part of local or provincial government.” well as union representation, environmental degradation, climbing rates of tolls and fees, and ethnic tensions, are making life harder for the Chinese populace. When mass incidents do break out, they


24  b  STRATEGIC VISION

photo: VOA A now-iconic scene of Hong Kong protestors using umbrellas as a defense against police tear gas, giving the movement its name ‘the Umbrella Revolution.’

are surrounded by a thick layer of emotions, making even simple demonstrations spiral into an uncontrollable chain of events. Joshua Keating, writing in Foreign Policy magazine, summarized the common characteristics of current mass incidents as follows: “social contradictions have already formed certain foundations of society and the masses, creating a powder keg ready to explode at the first hint of a flame. Conflicts escalate extremely rapidly; confrontation is intense; the destruction to society is sizable; appropriate management is difficult.”

Ancient methods When members of the Chinese populace find themselves the victims of government corruption, brutality, or incompetence, the local or provincial government is often to blame. Thus, many will seek redress

through an ancient method; by petitioning to the emperor. These days, petitions are directed toward the central government in Beijing.

“The petitioners, like the protesters, rarely seek to change the larger system. Rather, they tend to consider individual or local officials as the alleged sources 0f injustice.” During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was common for villagers abused by local officials to travel to Beijing to appeal to the emperor as their “grand patriarch,” hoping that he would sympathize with their plight and penalize corrupt local officials. In Protest with Chinese Characteristics: Demonstrations, Riots, and Petitions in the Mid-Qing Dynasty, Hung Ho-


Mass Incidents  b  25

Fung describes how the petition process was often emotionally charged, involving dramatic displays of desolation, such as kneeling upon both knees, collective public weeping, and kowtowing, or knocking one’s head upon the ground. Far from disappearing, this and other imperialist traditions survived into the communist era, with citizens throughout the PRC voyaging to Beijing to lodge complaints against tyrannical local officials.

Retributive violence As Hung points out, the petitioners, like the protesters, rarely seek to change the larger system. Rather, they tend “to consider individual or local officials as the alleged sources of injustice.” Thus, attacking corrupt cadres and besieging government buildings are standard acts of resistance—a type of retributive violence that personalizes injustice. Indeed, by seeking redress from the central government, these protesters are contributing to, or at least tacitly endorsing, the legitimacy of the system. This dynamic constitutes “the most significant continuity between today’s China and the peasant troubles linked to the centuries-long preindustrial old world.” This aspect of mass incidents leads to the conclusion that any similarities they share with the Occupy Central movement—or with the Sunflower movement in Taiwan, for that matter—are only skin deep, and should not be interpreted as a harbinger of China’s democratization. In fact, the demands of the Chinese peasantry and urban workers are extremely restrictive, due to a mix of chronic pragmatism and a shortsighted perspective on the realities of the country. In individualizing their problems and demands, protesters rarely pit themselves against the communist regime. Rather, they denounce the local cadres as “villains” or “enemies of the people,” and consequently enemies of the nation. They want justice, but it is a concept of justice that is

based on Chinese values and loyalty to the emperor, instead of a new revolution or profound changes to the system as a whole as demanded in Hong Kong.

Lacking coordination Even though China sees hundreds of thousands of such protests yearly, these lack coordination among them, and thus the leaders in Beijing worry little. If, hypothetically, protest leaders and social justice activists in China could learn from the Occupy Central movement and coordinate an alliance between the peasantry, the unemployed, laid off workers, and retirees, then according to analyst Thomas Bernstein, it could very possibly shake the CCP to its very foundations. Until then, however—notwithstanding the deadly crackdowns by provincial governments like Guizhou’s—Beijing has little to worry about despite the increasing number of mass incidents throughout the nation. Its only mistake—like that of several analysts—has been to assume that the protests in Hong Kong can be dealt with the same way. n

photo: Radio Free Asia Riot police confront villagers in Wukan in 2011 after they forcibly expelled local officials for seizing land and selling it to real estate developers.


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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 17 (October, 2014)

Looking for Answers Western media coverage of North Korea has much news, little meaning Dean Karalekas

Marshall Kim Jong Un may be the master of all he surveys, but running the country requires administrators invested in the success of the Kim-family regime.

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he rumor mill has been working overtime in recent weeks due to a spate of unprecedented and often contradictory news items coming out of Pyongyang—items which, individually, wouldn’t raise more than a few eyebrows, mostly just among longtime Korea watchers, but which in the aggregate would seem to suggest that potentially significant changes are afoot in the Hermit Kingdom. While the mainstream media is geared toward sensationalistic reporting anything regarding President

making it worth taking a step back to analyze just what, if anything, these various events signal. One of the more unprecedented actions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was the dispatching of a last-minute delegation of three high-level officials to Incheon, South Korea, to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games. The trio was led by Hwang Pyong So, possibly the most senior deputy to North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un, known affectionately in the North as “The Marshal.”

Kim Jong Un—even, as in recent reports, his conspicuous absence from the public eye—other events involving senior officeholders in Pyongyang have virtually slipped unnoticed under the media’s radar,

The other delegates were Kim Yang Gon and Choe Ryong Hae, the latter being head of the State Sports Commission and the official who initially replaced Kim’s uncle, Jang Sung Taek, after he was purged and

Dean Karalekas is a doctoral candidate in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. He can be reached for comment at dkaralekas@hotmail.com.


North Korea  b  27

executed. Choe has been demoted several times since then, while Hwang’s career trajectory has trended upward in recent months, rising from relative obscurity to become reportedly the most influential member of the DPRK ruling elite outside of the Kim family. Even the assignation of bodyguards to accompany Hwang on the trip has garnered attention, as this is normally a luxury only afforded to the head Kim in charge. As reported by Business Insider magazine, Hwang’s rise to the upper echelons of power has been described as “unusual” by North Korean defector Jang Jin Sung, who previously handled propaganda at the Workers’ Party of Korea. In addition to attending the closing ceremony, Hwang met with a number of senior officials, including Ryoo Kil Jae, the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) unification minister, and the head of the National Security Office, Kim Kwan Jin. While little concrete is known about the content of the meetings that took place on the periphery of the sporting event, there has been much speculation, due largely to the lastminute nature of the visit and the high level of the

officials involved. There has also been uncharacteristic movement on the human rights front, with more than a few gestures hinting that there may be room

“The most extensively covered news out of North Korea in recent weeks, Kim’s extended public absence (now over), is perhaps the least newsworthy of recent events. ” for negotiation on this issue. For one thing, DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong signaled that the DPRK would be willing to hold a human rights dialogue “with countries not hostile to it.” This echoed a similar comment in Brussels by Kang Sok Ju, an official with the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), who intimated that his country may be willing to open a human rights dialogue with the European Union. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in late September—the first time in 15 years that a North Korean foreign minister has done so—Ri also

Workers and students take care of landscaping duties in a public area in Pyongyang fronted by a mural celebrating the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.


28  b STRATEGIC VISION

commented on the issue of reunification, characterizing a unified Korean Peninsula as the “biggest desire of the whole nation,” and proposed that it could be accomplished using a scheme akin to China’s “one country, two systems,” which is currently experiencing setbacks in its Hong Kong implementation. These high-level pronouncements come on the heels of an earlier comment by a North Korean official that his government would accept some of the recommendations made as part of the UN Universal Periodic Review. Going further, Choe Myong-nam admitted for the first time that Pyongyang operated what he called “reform through labour” camps. Choe, the foreign ministry official for UN affairs and human rights issues, stopped short of characterizing the camps as prisons, instead telling reporters that the camps are “detention centers” where those who run afoul of the regime may improve their mindset by contemplating their wrongdoings. As if this weren’t groundbreaking enough, two announcements were made in late October that had analysts speculating: one was that the nation would close its borders to tourists—a growing source of

income for the impoverished country, and one that is particularly favored by Kim Jong Un. The other was that Kim himself had ordered the release of American detainee Jeffrey Fowle, who was a guest of the reclusive state for the crime of leaving a Bible in his hotel room.

Changing the paradigm Cumulatively, these events would seem to hint that Pyongyang is seeking a new strategy for handling its relations with the outside world, according to Joseph DeTrani, a North Korea expert formerly with the CIA. DeTrani was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “This is either Kim Jong-un on his own, or the people around him saying, ‘We’ve got to change this paradigm, because it is not working.’ ” Despite these occurrences, the most extensively covered news out of North Korea in recent weeks, Kim’s extended public absence (now over), is perhaps the least newsworthy of recent events. What the mainstream media fails to convey in its breathless coverage of the Marshal’s hiatus is the extent to which, despite

Inside the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Conference Row in the Joint Security Area has soldiers from the DPRK in close proximity with those of the south.


North Korea  b  29

Erected in 2001, the Arch of Reunification stands astride North Korea’s Tongil expressway, which leads straight to Panmunjom and, eventually, Seoul.

being a system designed to have a ruling member of the Kim family at its apex, the governing structure in the DPRK is not a one-man show. When Kim’s grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994, he was succeeded by a son that had benefited from an estimated two decades of grooming and experience leading various state organs, including much of the military structure, as well as those bodies responsible for propaganda operations in the media and the arts. In contrast, Kim Jong Un was revealed to the world as heir apparent approximately a year prior to his ascension, and had no known political or administrative experience. This deficit of administrative experience had to be compensated for in the form of an inner circle helping to guide the young leader: but only those who were trustworthy could be relied upon. According to Frank Ruediger, author of The Party as the Kingmaker: The Death of Kim Jong Il and its Consequences for

independent clout to successfully draw support and loyalty away from Kim Jong Un and from his father’s desires for the future of the nation. The one candidate that appeared to have enough power to accomplish this, should he have chosen that path, was Jang Sung Taek, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law and a member of the Politburo.

North Korea, there are very few personalities that fit that description that are still alive today. There have been powerful individuals, to be sure: Kim Young Nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly; Kim Jong Il’s sister Kim Kyong Hui; and the recently dismissed (and quite possibly deceased) Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho. None had the

true power behind the throne. Before his demise, the canny Kim Jong Il had been working to lay the foundations for this by gradually restoring the party’s primacy over the military, which had grown increasingly—and dangerously—influential over the years through the creeping expansion of the military-first policy, or Sŏn’gun.

Laying the foundations After Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in 2008 and appeared to be hastily making plans for the leadership succession, the once-purged and later rehabilitated Jang rose to prominence in a manner that led analysts to conclude that he would serve as a regent of sorts to the younger Kim. Speculation was rife that Jang, and to some degree his wife, Kim Kyong Hui— both of whom quickly received high-profile positions within the party and military—would become the


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By returning to core values and adopting a partyfirst policy with Choi Yong Hae in control, as well as by placing Ri Young Ho in control of the military, the elder Kim laid the foundations for his son’s consolidation of power and averted any temptation by an overly powerful military complex to oppose the succession. In this manner, Kim ensured that Jang, perhaps the third most powerful man in North Korea after the two Kims, would support Kim Jong Un after he was named successor. In order to continue to benefit from the apparent unflagging support from the various stakeholders in the Kim regime, it was essential for Kim Jong Un to avoid any missteps that might cast doubt on his competence to rule. One of the most difficult tasks was to manage relations with the outside world in a manner that was consistent with that of his father, and all signs on this front pointed to an auspicious beginning, relatively speaking. In terms of foreign and domestic policy, there had been little major departure from the policies enacted by the elder Kim as part

of the process by which Kim Jong Un consolidated power. Recent events may signal that consolidation period is at an end, however. While it is unlikely that the young leader is alone at the helm, a series of purges and executions over the past two years has allowed the Marshall to replace his father’s regency team and surround himself with those acolytes he deems loyal, and quite possibly who share a common view of the country’s future. The recent aforementioned events do signal that DeTrani may be correct in his estimation that the regime is experimenting with a new tack on foreign relations. In the past, any such olive branches have usually been quickly followed by a show of military or political strength—a nuclear test, or a rocket launch, or a provocation against South Korean military forces. At the time of writing, this has not yet been the case. For the time being, analysts can only hope that whatever the reclusive regime has in mind, it will lead to improved relations with the outside world, and ultimately, better conditions for the people of North Korea. n

Serving military members approach the Grand Monument on Mansudae Hill to pay their respects to President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il.


STRATEGIC VISION

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Strategic Vision, Issue 17  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Strategic Vision, Issue 17  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

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